Big Disasters

There are going to be a bunch of small posts today with different things that floated to the top of the random roiling flotsam and jetsam that is my thought process.

So, to begin:

I have two threads drawing me to see Into the Storm, the tornado film coming out in August.

The first is this guy:

Richard Armitage, Self Assignment, October 4, 2013

Yes dear, you’re hot. Let’s move on.

The second is the fact that I work at a University in the department that houses the Atmospheric Sciences. I can’t wait to go see this with some of them to point and laugh because this promises to be only slightly more scientifically accurate than 2012.

Now, this film is not trying to sell itself as Chekov, I get that. It’s a mindless pop-corn flick. That’s totally fine. I have Pacific Rim at home because there is something relaxing about watching giant robots and giant monsters pummeling each other. Don’t ask me what, it’s my zen.


Don’t not seek the Kaiju, only cherish kicking its ass.

But when your trailer about a film supposedly based on realistic events has lines like, “This one is bigger than any storm that has ever been!” which is refuted in thee seconds on Wikipedia  (and just to give you an idea of how big Typhoon Tip was) you have hella-bad screenwriting.  There are scientific reasons why large hurricanes and typhoons form over the ocean, not land, so no, you are not going to have the “biggest storm of all time” over Oklahoma. That was an unnecessary piece of hyperbole that just makes the film look foolish. Multiple massive tornadoes tearing through a place is bad enough, you really don’t need to embellish it with “ZOMFG! This is like, the worst storm EVAR!” I also highly question if a storm would have enough energy to put out four or five funnels in close proximity like that. There is bending the truth with some poetic license, and there is just not giving a rat’s ass about your subject matter except as an excuse for special effects.

As a history major I see that a lot. I, and many historians, understand that for the sake of story cohesion and time, events have to be streamlined and compressed, peripheral personages have to be merged or left out, etc.. We get that, but often things are changed for the sake of the Hollywood concept of “drama” and the story suffers because there was plenty of great drama in the real events. Real history is usually more interesting than anything Hollywood can cook up. I find the further a film drifts from the truth, the more “poetic license” they take, the worse the film is. For instance, Tora Tora Tora vs. Pearl Harbor. Tora Tora Tora is considered one of the top WWII films of all time and the only historical accuracy issues were equipment ones because the filmmakers in 1968 could not get their hands on WWII fighters and battleships. Pearl Harbor was an utter mess historically and dramatically.

Real science creates realistic jeopardy which just makes for a better movie. Look at this list from Popular Mechanics for the ten most scientifically accurate vs. ten least scientifically accurate SciFi films, and see which side of the scale is weighted down by artistic quality.

Most Scientifically Accurate:

~ 2001

~ Andromeda Strain

~ Alien

~ Blade Runner

~ Terminator

~ Jurassic Park

~ Gattaca

~ Contact (I do not understand the hate people have for this film. It was faithful to Carl Sagan’s novel, yet people seem to think they bought tickets for a George Lucas movie.)

~ Deep Impact

~ Minority Report (Again, a film that needs more love. It’s a great story told very well. Yes, the psychic premise is shaky, but the technology is sound. And while Tom Cruise maybe a complete nutter off camera, he knows what he is doing in front of it.)

A lot of damn good movies, right? Many iconic, even.

Least Scientifically Accurate:

~ The Black Hole (Does anyone remember this film? Neil deGrasse Tyson does and watch how much this film pisses him off 35 years later. And he makes the same point I just did: Sometimes filmmakers decide that their “vision” is more compelling then reality, and they are just wrong.)

~ Armageddon

~ The Matrix

~ Vanilla Sky

~ The Core

~ The Day After Tomorrow

~ I am Legend

~ Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Or, “Why Indy Should Have Remained in the Fantasy Genre.”)

~ 2012

~ Angels and Demons

They have The Matrix and Vanilla Sky, if you are into that sort of thing. (In which case, Jacob’s Ladder did it better.)  But as you see by in large, the better films are the ones that strove for some scientific accuracy.

So there is “artistic license” and there’s “I’m just too lazy to put some real work into this script and will leave it to the special effects shop to write most of the movie.”

Which is sad because this guy:


Oh! Hello, there…

…is a first-rate actor and deserves good material. (Thank the Gods he is working with great material now.) I am hoping I am wrong. I am hoping that this is film is better than its marketing. Sometimes that happens.

Scientist Says Put Up or Shut Up.

Climate Change Deniers Using Same Methods as Tobacco Industry, Says Physicist

…Keating has been involved, at some level, with climate change for 30 years. He has been a professor of physics for over 20 years and has taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Keating points to the claims of deniers as supporting evidence. “Compare the claims of deniers of today to the people that denied a link between tobacco and lung disease and see how similar they are. The tobacco people funded certain scientists to undermine valid research. At the same time, they called into question the ability of scientist receiving government funding to remain unbiased. They claimed lung disease was just a natural event. Climate change deniers today are making the same arguments about global warming.”

Keating demonstrated this point in his new book, Undeniable: Dialogues on Global Warming. Written in the style of Galileo’s Dialogues on Two New Sciences, Keating’s book consists of three friends debating the issues surrounding global warming. Just as in Galileo’s works, one friend acts as an advocate of global warming, one acts as a denier and one sits on the fence and goes back and forth. “This is a nice style because it presents both sides of the argument in a debate format.” The premise of the book is that there is now so much science that anyone, not just scientists, can prove man made global warming is real. “There is simply no science to support the claims of the deniers, but massive amounts of science proving man made global warming is real. All that anyone needs to do is a little homework. Everything is available to the public,” said Keating…

…Keating is so sure of his claim that he has issued two challenges to the deniers, one that will pay $10,000 to anyone that can prove, via the scientific method that man made climate change is not real; and one that will pay $1000 to anyone that can provide any scientific evidence at all that it isn’t real. The challenge is open to anyone over 18 and there is no entry fee. “I will judge all entries and show why they fail or succeed in the challenge. Entries don’t even have to be original. They just have to be first.”

Keating says he is more than willing to pay the money but doesn’t believe it will happen, “I’m a scientist and I have to go where the science leads me. I have been studying climate change for a long time and I am certain my money is safe. They are in the business of denial and deception, not science. But, if someone could give me a scientific proof global warming isn’t real, it would be worth the money.”…


“…via the scientific method…”

This is the problem: There are a lot of soundbites from politicians and pundits rejecting anthropogenic (human-influenced) climate change based on theories, but not much (if any) real, provable evidence. There is a mountain of provable evidence supporting that humans have greatly influenced climate change: Atmospheric sampling, weather patterns and temperature measurements over time (and there are accurate records of temperatures going back to 1850), ice cores from the Arctic and Antarctic which supply a frozen samples of the atmosphere going back thousands of years, chemical and biological content of the oceans and soils, experiments testing mathematical models, the geological record left by glaciers showing how slow they have retreated in the past warming periods vs. how fast they are retreating now. There is just a mountain of it.

It least now the conservatives are admitting that it is happening. Now they are just trying to deny we have anything to do with it.

The thing is people make all these accusations that the scientific community is preaching about “global warming” for the sake of money, but they don’t follow the logic through: Who has that kind of money and who profits? Do you know a lot of solar cell or wind turbine companies making hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at scientists across the globe?

And what about the grants from government sources? The same government with a Congressional science committee with members who think that the Big Bang and evolution are “lies from the pit of hell.”

Nor are Broun’s views radically out of whack with other Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Another member is Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, still dodging flak for saying victims of “legitimate rape” were unlikely to become pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”…

…”The committee’s chair, Ralph Hall (R-Texas), lumps ‘global freezing’ together with global warming, which he doesn’t believe humans can significantly impact because ‘I don’t think we can control what God controls.’ Dana Rohrbacher (R-Huntington Beach) thinks cutting down trees reduces levels of greenhouse gases they absorb. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) still trots out the debunked notion that a scientific consensus existed in the 1970s on ‘global cooling,’ which he portrays as a scare concocted by scientists ‘in order to generate funds for their pet projects.’ “

We have states banning the evidence and effects of global climate change. (I would imagine no one in the North Carolina State Senate has heard of King Cnut) If anything there is a bias of denial in today’s U.S. government, yet the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (of which the National Weather Service is a part), a government agency, agrees that humans have increased global climate change. NASA says humans have increased global climate change. Agencies and universities all over the world have researched, given evidence and agree that humans are affecting the world’s temperature and weather systems.

You know who does have the money and who does profit? The fossil fuel industries and related industries. They profit lots. And lots. And lots. (And they have lots of influence in our government.) The fossil fuel industry has billions of dollars to combat this “problem.” They throw that money at corrupt scientists to “disprove” it so the public will have no drive to shift from using oil, coal and gas.

And it’s not the first time they have done this.

In 1922,  the U.S. Public Health Service had asked Thomas Midgley, Jr. – the developer of the leaded gasoline process – for copies of all his research into the health consequences of tetraethyl lead (TEL).

Midgley, a scientist at General Motors, replied that no such research existed. And two years later, even with bodies starting to pile up,  he had still not looked into the question.  Although GM and Standard Oil had formed a joint company to manufacture leaded gasoline – the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation – its research had focused solely on improving the TEL formulas. The companies disliked and frankly avoided the lead issue. They’d deliberately left the word out of their new company name to avoid its negative image…

The manufacturers agreed to suspend TEL production and distribution until a federal investigation was completed. In May 1925, the U.S. Surgeon General called a national tetraethyl lead conference, to be followed by the formation of an investigative task force to study the problem. That same year, Midgley published his first health analysis of TEL, which acknowledged  a minor health risk at most, insisting that the use of lead compounds,”compared with other chemical industries it is neither grave nor inescapable.”

It was obvious in advance that he’d basically written the conclusion of the federal task force. That panel only included selected industry scientists like Midgely. It had no place for Alexander Gettler or Charles Norris or, in fact, anyone from any city where sales of the gas had been banned, or any agency involved in the producing that first critical analysis of tetraethyl lead.

In January 1926, the public health service released its report which concluded that there was “no danger” posed by adding TEL to gasoline…”no reason to prohibit the sale of leaded gasoline” as long as workers were well protected during the manufacturing process…

…It was some fifty years later – in 1986 – that the United States formally banned lead as a gasoline additive. By that time, according to some estimates, so much lead had been deposited into soils, streets, building surfaces, that an estimated 68 million children would register toxic levels of lead absorption and some 5,000 American adults would die annually of lead-induced heart disease. As lead affects cognitive function, some neuroscientists also suggested that chronic lead exposure resulted in a measurable drop in IQ scores during the leaded gas era. And more recently, of course, researchers had suggested that TEL exposure and resulting nervous system damage may have contributed to violent crime rates in the 20th century.

(I admit, I totally got this from Niel deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos. Which is awesome and everyone must see it. MUST! And that site I just linked to has some of the full episodes up, so they can. 😀 )

The problem is while these “global warming deniers” have come up with loads of theories to deny anthropogenic climate change, they have provided no proof. They have not been able to prove another major source of the sharply rising greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere (volcanoes are addressed on one of the NOAA links above, they spill far less greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere than humans do). They have not been able to prove that those gasses do not affect global temperatures.

And now someone is telling them to put their money where their mouth is.


Where we are, how much time it will take to change from a planet dependent on fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, if we started right now, this day, the planet will still be a 100 years or more recovering from the damage we have done.

But it would recover.

If we wait too long, and we are pushing it, the species on this planet won’t recover.

And as I said in the comments to a previous below, if it was just us I would ethically be o.k. with that, but we are taking thousands of species with us.

And even if you don’t believe in climate change, doesn’t pollution suck anyway? Look at the cities in industrial China (and sometimes not just the cities). Do you really want to live like that?

(Every time some Randian “Libertarian” complains about business regulations, I just point to child labor and China.)